Phillies suffer turn-back-the-clock loss to Daniel Mengden, A's

Phillies suffer turn-back-the-clock loss to Daniel Mengden, A's


At the turn of the 20th century, the Philadelphia Athletics collected three World Series titles and six AL pennants behind some dominant pitching. 

The A’s were back in town on Friday night, and Daniel Mengden made it feel — and look — like 1913 again. 

Sporting a handlebar mustache and an old-school delivery, Mengden tossed a two-hitter, shutting down Rhys Hoskins and the Phillies in Oakland’s 4-0 victory in a matchup of last-place teams at Citizens Bank Park (see observations)

Matt Olson — Oakland’s version of Hoskins — hit a 483-foot, two-run homer in the first inning off Mark Leiter Jr. It was the rookie’s 15th homer in his past 30 games and 19 in 51. 

Hoskins had entered as the fastest in major-league history to hit 18 homers. But his 35th game proved frustrating. He chased a pitch in the dirt for strike three in the second and fanned looking on three pitches in the fourth. He made good contact in the seventh, but grounded out sharply to second. 

Mengden was so efficient Hoskins didn’t get a fourth at-bat. 

“As well as we’ve been swinging the bats, we got stymied by that Mengden kid,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “He really pitched well. He pitched backwards. He threw as many off-speed pitches as he did fastballs. I tip my cap to him. He really did a good job on us, and I’m glad I didn’t give J.P. Crawford the day off."

Crawford, making his second start at shortstop, singled in the third and sixth innings for the only offense. He never got past second base, and Aaron Altherr’s fly out to deep left in the seventh was the closest the Phillies came to scoring in their first shutout since Aug. 16 at San Diego. 

The Phillies were coming off a three-game sweep of Miami in which they scored 27 runs. But Mengden’s double-clutch windup and changing speeds messed with the Phillies’ timing. 

It was a good reminder this remains a young team that’s still experiencing things for the first time. 

“It’s a funky delivery, a funky windup,” said Andrew Knapp, who made his first start at catcher since Aug. 3. “He kind of messes with your timing with the double pump over the top. But kudos to him. He was hitting his spots and keeping us off-balance.”

Mengden (1-1) retired the first seven hitters and the final 11 in his first career complete game. He walked none and struck out seven. Not bad for a guy who was called up 10 days earlier and came in with a 7.07 ERA in three big-league starts this season. 

But nobody on the Phillies’ active roster had ever faced the 24-year-old right-hander. Blame that on an unusual September interleague series, with the A’s making their first trip to their former home since 2011. 

And it’s been many years since anybody has seen the extended windup-handlebar mustache combination on the mound. 

“He probably does it for his own comfort level,” Mackanin said. 

Mengden taps his toe and brings his glove over his head before bringing it back to eye level. Then he taps his toe and again raises his glove before delivering to the plate. But Mengden also at times went to a regular delivery. 

“A bunch of the Phillies kind of hang low and get that timing off the pitcher," Mengden said. "So we wanted to get some quick pitches in there."

Even when the Phillies figured out the delivery, they were befuddled by the pitches themselves.

“Hitters never knew what’s coming,” Mackanin said. “He pitched backwards sometimes and snuck fastballs by us. He started off with fastballs and got us out soft. It was tough for a hitter to know what was coming. He missed his spots only about eight times, which is huge.”

Matt Joyce added a second two-out, two-run homer in the third off Leiter (3-6). The right-hander settled down from there to allow four runs and seven hits over six innings with one walk while matching a career high with nine strikeouts. 

“I had pretty good command of a lot of my secondary stuff, so I was just trying to mix it up and bury the off-speed pitches when we got to two strikes,” Leiter said. 

The bullpen was flawless from there, with Zac Curtis striking out two in a hitless ninth in his Phillies debut. And Knapp was smooth behind the plate in his return from a broken hand. But the Phillies dropped their 90th game, and now must win six of their final 15 to avoid 100 losses. 

“The result wasn’t what we wanted, but the hand felt good. No problems there,” Knapp said. “it felt good getting behind the plate again.” 

MLB Playoffs: Javier Baez snaps out of funk to help Cubs avoid sweep

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MLB Playoffs: Javier Baez snaps out of funk to help Cubs avoid sweep

CHICAGO -- Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Chicago Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to held the defending World Series champion Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Manager Joe Maddon got ejected for the second time in this series in the eighth, and a packed Wrigley Field crowd watched Davis get Cody Bellinger to ground into a game-ending double play.

Maddon was heavily criticized for not using Davis during a 4-1 loss in Game 2. This time, the Cubs closer threw 48 pitches to finish the job.

Willson Contreras also homered for the Cubs. Bellinger and Justin Turner connected for the Dodgers, who had won a team-record six straight playoff games.

Game 5 is Thursday, with Jose Quintana pitching for Chicago against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (see full recap).

Tanaka, Yankees blank Astros to take ALCS lead
NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven innings of three-hit ball and the New York Yankees finally solved Houston Astros nemesis Dallas Keuchel, beating the ace lefty 5-0 on Wednesday for a 3-2 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Gary Sanchez hit an RBI single off Keuchel and later homered to help the wild-card Yankees win for the third straight day at home and move within one victory of their first trip to the World Series since 2009.

The teams head back to Houston for Game 6 on Friday night, when Justin Verlander and the reeling Astros will try to regain their footing following an off day and force a decisive Game 7. Luis Severino is scheduled to start for New York.

Just days ago, Houston was up two games to none and appeared to be closing in on its second World Series appearance. But the Astros, like defending AL champion Cleveland before them, have been unable to put away these poised Yankees, who improved to 6-0 at home in this postseason in front of their cheering, chanting fans (see full recap).

MLB Playoffs: Yankees storm back for win over Astros to even ALCS

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MLB Playoffs: Yankees storm back for win over Astros to even ALCS

NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge ignited a rousing rally with a home run, then doubled during a four-run eighth inning to spur the New York Yankees over the Houston Astros 6-4 Tuesday night and level the AL Championship Series 2-2.

The Yankees trailed 4-0 against starter Lance McCullers Jr. until Judge homered leading off the seventh. He tied it with a line drive that nearly left the park in the eighth and scored on Gary Sanchez's go-ahead two-run double off loser Ken Giles.

The Yankees have rallied from a second straight 0-2 series deficit -- they beat Cleveland in the Division Series by winning three in a row to take that best-of-five matchup.

Aroldis Chapman struck out two in a perfect ninth, and New York improved to 5-0 at home in the playoffs.

Masahiro Tanaka pitches for New York against Dallas Keuchel in Game 5 Wednesday and rematch of the opener, won by the Astros 2-1 (see full recap).

Dodgers on brink of World Series after shutout
CHICAGO -- Yu Darvish pitched sparkling ball into the seventh inning, Chris Taylor homered again and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 6-1 on Tuesday night to open a commanding 3-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

Andre Ethier also went deep and Taylor added an RBI triple in the fifth as Los Angeles set a franchise record with its sixth consecutive playoff win. Yasiel Puig had two more hits in another entertaining performance that included an impressive bat flip -- on a long foul ball in the first inning.

Looking for a four-game sweep and their 22nd NL pennant, the Dodgers will send Alex Wood to the mound Wednesday night at Wrigley Field with a chance to reach the World Series for the first time since their last championship in 1988. Jake Arrieta, eligible for free agency after the season, pitches for the Cubs in what could be his final start with the team.

Los Angeles was eliminated by Chicago in the NLCS last year, but this is a different group of Dodgers. The lineup is patient and pesky and the pitching staff is much deeper, especially since Darvish was acquired in a trade with Texas in the final minutes before the July 31 deadline (see full recap).